London Mozart Players – The Complete HMV Stereo Recordings

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COMPOSERS: Arriaga,Haydn,Mozart
LABELS: First Hand Records
WORKS: Mozart: Symphonies Nos 28 & 41 (Jupiter); Concertos for Two Pianos: in E flat, K365; in F, K242; Serenade No. 9 in D, K320; Four Minuets, K601 etc; Arriaga: Symphony in D; Haydn: Symphony No. 103 (Drumroll)
PERFORMER: Vitya Vronsky, Victor Babin (piano); London Mozart Players/Harry Blech
CATALOGUE NO: FHR 05 ADD mono/stereo

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This very cheaply priced and well-packaged set shows what the London Mozart Players (LMP) were like in the years before they had competition, so far as chamber orchestras went. Many distinguished soloists played in the LMP, though unfortunately no list is provided here. These recordings, made in the late 1950s, mostly in ‘experimental stereo,’ show not only how alert a body it was, but also what comparatively advanced Mozart style of the period was like. 

There are no very slow tempos, nor, for that matter, any very fast ones. In some cases, such as the Jupiter Symphony, that can lead to a hint of characterlessness, even when individual instrumental contributions are lively and fresh. Harry Blech, the founder and for many years the chief conductor of the LMP, didn’t, apparently, favour crisp articulation, so there are smudgy passages, and in the incredible contrapuntal flights of the last movement of this work one can’t hear as much detail as one would like. Also, there are no repeats, here or anywhere, except in minuets. 

Still, it’s a fascinating choice of works, with the remarkable Symphony by Arriaga, one of the two most precocious talents in the history of composition, who died at 20, given a spirited account. Mozart’s great Posthorn Serenade, a puzzlingly neglected masterpiece nowadays, also comes up full of charm and inventiveness. The Two-Piano Concerto in E flat, K365, is routine. But the Haydn symphony which concludes the set, one of his greatest, is winningly played and interpreted. 

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The sound is never less than decent, though the high strings sometimes sound thin and vinegary. Michael Tanner